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02 July 2007 @ 09:23 am
Another Open Letter  
Dear Government of the United States of America,

A few months ago I posted a letter suggesting that we use patriotism and the compulsive contributions of some of those online to scan recent satellite images to aid in the identification of terrorist (and other) threats. (http://scarythedave.livejournal.com/28052.html)

Now another WIRED article inspires another suggestion: rather than relying on dedication and obsession as motivators--and avoiding the obvious money--we should mimick the ideas of Luis von Ahn. Von Ahn has already received a genius grant and provided a number of useful tools and games to the world (cf. Captcha, Babble, etc). Apparently the Department of Homeland Security has even requested that he create a game for DHS staff to aid in the identification of security threats at airports. (http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/15-07/ff_humancomp)

The point is this: why not apply these ideas to create games that identify potential threats. Begin with a database of images containing known threats and nonevents alike. Users can react to this database, tagging to the best of their ability and gaining credibility with each accurate identification. This method can at least provide an initial proof of concept and potentially act as a training ground as well.

I hope that these ideas gain support, though I somehow doubt any government official will ever read this letter.

David M Howcroft
Ramsey Scholar & Concerned Citizen